According to available records, breast cancer is the most common form of the disease in women worldwide. In Nigeria, an estimated 72,000 cancer cases occur annually and 102,000 new cases diagnosed.
This is minus those at the creeks and at the rural communities of the Niger Delta region like in Bayelsa State where most of these women would not even know what is wrong with them. Some may attribute the cancer case to their family and village people while many ignorantly die out of it including the cases that would have been sorted out.
That is the reason why some organisations under the platform of members of the Collation Against Cancer in Bayelsa State (CACIBS) celebrating the recent World Cancer Day, 2022 recently in Yenagoa went a step further to stage a road walk using the walk to sensitize the naive public about the dangers of cancer and the need to embark on monthly testing of the breasts in order to ensure early detection.
The groups that make up the coalition are the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, Gloria Diri Foundation, Gold Coast Developmental Foundation, Heartland Alliance Limited, Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.
Others were Nigerian Medical Association, Oasis Public Health Consulting, Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria, Professional Association of Public Health Nursing Officers of Nigeria, Rotary Club Yenagoa, District 9141, Rotary Club of Yenagoa City Centre, Rotary Club of Oxbow Lake, Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria and Women and Children Hope Alive Developmental Foundation.
Speaking on what informed the decision of the groups to come together, the coordinator of CACIBS, Abisoye Oyeyemi said that they have to wage war against cancer adding that “Cancer is second leading cause of death in the world and we know that to fight it, it is not what one organisation can do.
My organisation started some years ago but last year we partnered with the Nigerian Medical Association.
“So we decided that we should come together now that we realised that resources are very lean and so instead of one organisation bearing the burden we have been able to spread the cost.
“The cancer fight itself is not a sprint but rather a marathon race. It is going to take us so many years before we can reach the global target that has been set. This is what has prompted the coalition
. On why they didn’t leave for the state government to handle the fight, he explained: “Most of the programmes running in Bayelsa State get support from donors.
They look from outside and say that this is oil-rich state but we know that the resources that it has to have state driven projects like this is merger so up till now, even though we have an office that is supposed to be dedicated to a non-commutable diseases as a whole but the office has not been active and the reason is because of funding.
“Our own goal is to try and start something and then we can get the ministry involved. Even though it is a capital project it involves a lot of human resources. We wanted to start doing something so that if there is any organisation that wants to help, they can see that we have started doing something.
“The coalition is for all types of cancers. But the two leading cancers affecting women – are breast and cervical cancer. That is why our focus is on those two. Besides cervical cancer is the one we know what causes it. “Before it becomes cancerous, there is a stage it passes that if you detect it on time, it will never become cancer.”
On how to know the symptoms of breast cancer, the coordinator explained: “Most of the time, it starts with a painless lump like a seed inside the breast and then apart from that one, we usually advise that people should be breast aware. You need to know your breasts as they are by examining them as they are.
But because people don’t feel that seed, when it is so small by the time it has grown so big, that it has formed an ulcer that is the only time they get to know that something is wrong with their breasts.
“Then you will start having some changes. For instance, your breasts will start being like the skin of an orange with dimples instead of a normal one that is supposed to be smooth.
You know that there is an issue and then you don’t expect that any woman that is not a nursing mother should start having fluid coming out of her breast. By the time you start seeing some discharge like blood or watery fluid coming out from the nipple, you should know that there is a problem.
“Then the nipple is supposed to be flat for some women. Others may be pointing, by the time you see the nipple being retracted, and then you should begin to suspect that there may be a problem. And then the breast extends to the armpit the swelling may start from the armpit.
“When it gets to an advanced stage that it causes an ulcer the breast will be much bigger than the other breast that is not affected. By the time it gets to stage four it will spread to other parts of the body. “So some body will start losing weight.
They will get tired easily. That goes to show that the whole body is already affected. “For cervical cancer, the symptoms start with abnormal bleeding, like a woman after menses, you don’t expect to have blood again until the next menses but when you have finished having your menstruation, before you know it, another round of bleeding starts.
You know that there is a problem. And some people by the time they have intercourse with their husbands, then you start seeing blood or some foul smell or discharge that comes from the private part.
“It may be that the woman has actually stopped seeing her menses (menopause). All of a sudden, she starts bleeding again then you know that there is an issue. “By that you see them losing weight, pains all around their waist.
By that time, the cancer has left that cervix and has gone to other parts of the body. But the major one is bleeding. But we don’t want it to ever get to that point at all. “That is why we talk about screening for cervical cancer and the popular one is the Pap smear.
The cause of cervical cancer is infection. “But for a woman that is regular with her screening, by the time she comes for that screening, they will see those changes at that stage, it can be arrested. “But unfortunately, many of our women don’t come for the screening until the symptoms start. That is the first time you get to see them.
At that time it was already cancer. There is nothing anyone can do. “Whatever we do, it is just surgery or we send them to buy very expensive drugs which many people cannot afford or chemotherapy. And because of the level of poverty, many cannot afford all of that.
That is why you see people dying unnecessarily. “There is something that we call breast self-examination and it is very simple. For those of them that are still menstruating, we usually advise that immediately after their menstrual period, which may be five days after, they should just stand in front of the mirror, raise their hands and examine their breasts.
“Check for rashes to make sure that there is nothing. When you do that, you can now begin to feel for lumps or seeds in the breast.
“Divide the breast into four parts. Start from the outer side and then start feeling with three fingers. Use the right hand to feel the left breast and use the left hand to feel the right breast. “After that you lie down and then do the same thing and then press your nipple to check if there is any liquid.
If something comes out, then you should alert a doctor. But it doesn’t mean that every lump you notice is cancer but the only way you can know is when you get to the hospital. “Apart from that, every woman that is 40 and above should go for a mammogram even after doing your own examination monthly. Once a year get to the hospital and check. That is what we call clinical breast examination.”